Filling in the Blanks
By Ed “Hazukashii” Howell
9 Nov 2013
The Hash House Harriers (a.k.a. Mother Hash) is celebrating their 75th Anniversary of hashing here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this weekend. As you would expect, there are many old hashmen about, and the environment is rich with hash history. I started hashing in 1984, which for all intents and purposes is the modern era of the hash. There have been many changes over the past 30 years, but much of what we see today can be traced back to the early days of hash. A friend of mine, Ron “The Penguin” Strachan, who is no newcomer to the sport, started hashing in 1974 on the occasion of the 200th run of the Jakarta H3 in Indonesia, and was the Hash Master for the JH3 when they hosted Interhash III in 1982. While Ron is no slacker in his depth of hash history, he introduced me to Gordon “Bent One” Benton. Gordon was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, but did not begin his hash experience until 1965 while working abroad in Brunei. An enthusiastic rugby player, he was eventually convinced by some co-workers to join the hash. Cutting his teeth in the jungles of Brunei, Gordon had many a tale to tell of the early days of hash. The Brunei H3 is the third oldest hash, being originally founded by Colin Berwick on 18 February 1963, you can see the details at <http://gotothehash.net/history/hhhb.html>;.
The original BH3 started out strong, but was disrupted when the Indonesian army infiltrated into the jungle making it unsafe to continue through the end of 1963 and into 1964. Once the Konfrontasi was ending, the hash reappeared supported by participation of the British Army (a.k.a. Brunei Malay Regiment) and other expatriates that began to return on business. There may have been a few occasional BH3 trails during 1964, but was not fully reborn until 1965 around the time that Gordon arrived. In general terms, the BH3 held weekly hash events that consisted of meeting in various areas around the countryside, and the packs were usually less than 20 hashers. The trails were hared live, with the two hares getting at least a 20 minute head start to set a trail of about 8-10 kilometers in length. If on the odd occurrence that a hare was caught they were required to buy all the beer for the day. In the tradition of Mother Hash, the Brunei H3 ran on Monday evenings with the trails starting precisely at 1700 in order to allow most of the pack to finish before dark. Although there was no formal circle at that time, the hounds would hang around after the trail to drink a few beers from a bin with aluminum mugs. These bins contained ice blocks and are believed to be the catalyst for the BH3 originating the fine tradition of sitting on the ice. Although it was no formal occurrence, the ice blocks were used as a random punishment for a hasher who said or did something worthy of it. There were very few “down-downs” as we see today, only the hares were recognized. Gordon also credits the Brunei H3 with originating the “hash shit” which was a small rabbit on his back paws, that was wired to the top of a can of Anchor Beer. As an avid and regular hasher, Gordon was the first to achieve the status of “Hectacourier” for running 100 trails with the BH3. After four years, the inevitable reassignment came his way and he left for Jakarta in 1969.
Upon his arrival in Jakarta, there was as yet no hash clubs, so along with his friend Jeremy “Burong” Pidgeon, they founded the Jakarta H3 on 22 Mar 1971. Hashing was very austere with only paper used to mark the trail, and there were no arrows, checks, or falsies; the trail just ended and the pack had to look around to find which new direction it went. The terms Front Running Bastard (FRB) and Dead F*cking Last (DFL) were not used at that point, but the last one to complete the trail did receive special attention. They did in fact use the sometimes derogatory term of Short Cutting Bastard (SCB), an art that can be as rewarding as it can be detrimental to the timely finishing of a trail. When the Jakarta hash started out, the hash was not viewed well by the local people, as they initially thought that the Dutch had returned, after that was dispelled, there was concern about the pack running through the crops, damaging mud walls and rice paddies. But after a period of time and reparations, and teaching the hashers to tread lightly, the local people became familiar with the calls of on-on and the sight of paper. Gordon said that the local farmers eventually got used to seeing hashers, so much so that sometimes the kids would move the paper to change the trail. There was a hash horn used at the Jakarta H3, and you could hear the terms ‘On-On’ and ‘Are You’ between fellow hashers to help navigate through the jungle.
In the humble fashion that many hashes start out, there were only 7 or 8 on that first trail in 1971, but the pack would soon grow to over 100 through word of mouth, and advertising through hash T-shirts sponsored by ICI, Shell, and eventually as part of the special relationship that soon developed with the local distributor of Anchor Beer. The distributor would dispatch a truck to the run site each week that would bring beer and soft drinks, as well as lights for the circle. Speaking of lights and circles, it is believed the circle originated in Jakarta, but not necessarily for fellowship among hashers and the issuance of down-downs, but merely to create a type of barrier between the hashers and the local people that would become very curious of what was taking place. As time went on, the circle slowly became more entrenched in the weekly activity and could often last up to two hours, with regular down-downs and the singing of songs. It was a requirement for the hare to write his own song each week and to entertain the pack with it. As in many parts of the world where hash trails go, many of the jungle routes were single file foot paths, so various rules came into existence. One such rule created to avoid knocking each other down, was to never pass a hasher who appears to be, or at least ‘thinks he is running’ the trail.
This next piece of history is open for dispute, but it is quite possible that hash names were also originated in Jakarta. In order to get the word out, some hashes would mail out the weekly hash trash to members, but the mail system in Jakarta was not timely enough to deliver them on time for the next weeks run, so the trash was printed and placed in a handful of local establishments so the members could pick them up (Note: this method was still in use in Seoul when I arrived there in 1997). As this allowed anyone who passed by the opportunity to read what was going on within the hash, the use of real names was soon abandoned to avoid any conflict with employers or the general public at large. By the time Gordon left Jakarta in 1980, Jakarta was believed to be one of the largest hash clubs in the world. So, having completed his mission to bring the hash to Indonesia, Gordon next headed off to Singapore to begin a decade of running with Father Hash.
Having been firmly established, and becoming one of the most popular hash clubs in the world, building on the success of Hong Kong in 1978 and Mother Hash in 1980, the Jakarta H3 stepped up to host the third biennial Interhash in 1982.